Now considered a gourmet grocery chain, Dorothy Lane Market got its start as a fruit stand. Founders Calvin D. Mayne and Frank Y. Sakada opened a fruit stand on the corner of Dorothy Lane and Far Hills Avenue 75 years ago this month.
Here’s the story behind this local grocery, which has become a favorite destination for shoppers in the Dayton region and beyond.
Sakada was second-generation Japanese immigrant who was born and raised in California, where he got his start selling fruits and vegetables.
During WWII, Sakada taught the Japanese language to servicemen at the Naval language school in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Mayne was a captain in military intelligence during the war.
After the war, Sakada moved to Dayton on the advice of his brother-in-law. For a time, Sakada worked as a caretaker for former Gov. James M. Cox, but always wanted to get back into the fruit and grocery business.
Sakada and Mayne met while Sakada was shopping at the M&H market on South Dixie Drive, where Mayne worked. The two eventually decided to go into business together.
The fruit stand
Dorothy Lane Market began as a fruit stand on the corner of Dorothy Lane and Far Hills Avenue on Aug. 12, 1948.
At first, the two men were the only workers.
They did $37.65 worth of business the first day.
Sakada recalled in a 1952 Dayton Daily News article that in an effort to build business, he and Mayne studied customers’ buying habits and determined the 10 most often purchased items. “Once we had that information, we determined we would not be under priced on the top 10 by any of our competitors,” he said.
As the city grew around them and more families moved to the area, Mayne said a combination of “the right place, at the right time, with the right methods” rocketed their business skyward.
In just four years, they had 14 employees and were doing $25,000 worth of business a week.
Brick and mortar
In 1952, it was announced in the Dayton Daily News that Dorothy Lane Market was expected to move from its open-type fruit market building into a “modern $200,000 building” two blocks north on Far Hills Avenue.
The entire block was to be devoted to the large supermarket, a gas station and a parking lot.
The store, located at 2700 Far Hills Ave., provided about five times the space of their 2,000-square-foot market.
Sakada said plans called for expenditures of between $60,000 and $70,000 to furnish the store, and that, as much as possible, only Dayton-made equipment would be used.
As construction began, Mayne said the store would have a complete line of standard and fancy food items. “It will be one of the nicest stores in the Midwest,” he said.
A crowd of “more than 2,000 people” jammed into the new Dorothy Lane Market during the first hour it opened on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 1953. Oakwood city manager A.C. Bergman cut the ribbon to formally open the store during a ceremony that morning.
The new store’s opening came five years after the founding of the original market.
Mayne said the new store would have about 40 employees and it had the same hours as the market, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.
A Mayne family business
In 1960, Sakada, who was then vice president of Dorothy Lane Market, sold his half interest in the business to Mayne.
The year prior, in 1959, Sakada had started his own new business by opening Eastown Kar-Wash, an automatic car wash business at the Eastown Shopping Center in Dayton.
Mayne continued to operate the store until his death in 1972. His wife, Vera, became president and retired at the age of 100. She lived to be 105.
Their son, Norman Mayne, became CEO in 1967 and ran the business with his own son, Calvin, who was the president.
To this day, the company is still owned and operated by the fourth generation of the family.
A second store in the Washington Square Shopping Center opened in 1991 and a third DLM opened in Springboro in 2002.
In October 2021, DLM announced plans for a 4th location in Mason.
Dorothy Lane Market will be celebrating its 75th anniversary this weekend, Aug. 12-13, with sales and events.